Take Action: Keep it 💯 for Our Students

What You Need to Know: Education Funding in Massachusetts

In the 1980s, steep cuts in property taxes strained school budgets across the state, creating gaping inequalities between the richest and poorest communities.

In response to that, parents from Brockton sued the state, claiming that it was failing to meet its constitutional obligation to “cherish” education for all students. This language written goes all the way back to John Adams.

In June of 1993, the Legislature responded to this lawsuit -- and the underlying funding crisis -- by passing the Education Reform Act, which has shaped the course of public education in Massachusetts since.

One core part of ensuring that every student got a quality public education was the Chapter 70 formula.

Here's how it worked:

(1) Calculate a "foundation budget": A district 's foundation budget is determined by multiplying the number of students at each grade level and demographic group (e.g., low-income students and English Language Learners) by a set of education spending categories (e.g., teacher compensation, building maintenance) and totaling those numbers up.

(2) Calculate a required local contribution: This is done by looking at incomes and property values. In other words, how much can a city or town contribute based on the resources that it has?

(3) Fill the gap with state aid. And if districts can and want to, they can choose to spend more than their required contribution.

And this worked! Well, at first.

Some things from 1993 last forever.

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But most haven't. And the assumptions built into this formula are now out of date.

The Legislature knows this, too.

In 2015, a commission created by the Legislature (the Foundation Budget Review Commission) found that we are underfunding state aid to public school districts by up to $2 billion a year due to outdated assumptions about the cost of health care, special education, English Language Learner education, and closing income-based achievement gaps.

That's a lot of money!

And as a result, we have one of the most unequal public education systems in the country. All students lose out due to our outdated funding formula, especially the students who need extra help the most.

 

Wow, we really need to see action on this. What can I do?

The Legislature has been debating various proposals this year. Some, like the PROMISE Act (part of our Legislative Agenda), provide a comprehensive solution. Others are less far-reaching or have some provisions that could make inequities even worse.

It's important that when legislators take action this fall, they get it right. 

That means providing 100% additional funding for the poorest students so that all students, regardless of income, have the opportunity to succeed.

For that to happen, your legislators need to hear from YOU, their constituents. They have to vote well for you to continue to vote for them to represent you. It's that simple.

Are we a state that believes in high-quality public education for all students, or are we not?

 

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So here's what you can do:

(1) Look up your legislators' phone numbers and email addresses here. (Put the numbers in speed dial!)

(2) Explain that you need them to commit to 100% additional funding for the poorest students. They need to be communicating this to House Leadership. (If they send a letter, ask them to send you a copy).

Here's a sample script:

Hello, my name is [YOUR NAME], and I am a constituent from [YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD/CITY/TOWN].

It's been almost four years since a commission created by the legislature showed that we are underfunding our public schools by up to $2 billion a year due to an outdated funding formula from 1993. It's far past time for the Legislature to update this formula, and we have to do it right.

A good bill will do right by all our students, especially the most vulnerable. And that means providing 100% additional funding for the poorest students.

I urge you to only support a bill that delivers on this promise of quality public education for all and to communicate this to Speaker Bob DeLeo and Education Chairwoman Alice Peisch.

Can I count on you to send a letter to them outlining your demands for an education funding bill?

[If time, personalize the issue by referencing the needs of your own school district or speak about your own experience as a student/teacher/parent/community member.]

(3) Let us know how the call went.

(4) Set yourself a calendar reminder for one week to call again.

(5) Ask five of your friends to do the same.

 

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